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Taking control of your diabetes

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By Robert Villanueva

 

BOX: To find out more about the Hardin & LaRue Diabetes Coalition and the Diabetes Center of Excellence, contact the Lincoln Trail District Health Department at (270) 769-1601 or (800) 280-1601. To find out more about diabetes programs at Hardin Memorial Hospital, call (270) 706-5092 or (270) 706-5071. To find out more about diabetes in general, visit the Web site of the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org.   By ROBERT VILLANUEVA rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com Kentucky had the ninth highest rate of diabetes in the country in 2007. That’s according to figures compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kentucky Department for Public Health. Kentucky had a rate of 9.9 percent compared to a national rate of 8.1 percent. That means 318,000 Kentuckians have been diagnosed with the disease. Another 127,200 have the disease but are undiagnosed, according to those studies. While those numbers might be a bit daunting, there are resources available in Hardin County and the surrounding area for people with diabetes. “There is some help out there for them,” Shelly Greenwell, director of the Diabetes Center of Excellence, said. The Diabetes Center of Excellence program is part of the Lincoln Trail District Health Department. It provides help to people to manage their diabetes, concentrating on people on Medicaid, assessing their needs while working with their physicians. The work is also part of the mission of the Hardin & LaRue Diabetes Coalition, a group that works through the health department. Of all diagnosed cases of diabetes, about 90 percent fall into the type 2 category, Greenwell said. Type 2 diabetes generally is controlled through medicine, diet and exercise. Type 1 is known, by some, as insulin-dependent diabetes and accounts for between 5 and 10 percent of cases. Avoiding the factors that raise the risk for developing diabetes is an important defensive measure. “Diabetes can be prevented,” Greenwell said. Hardin Memorial Hospital hosts a diabetes support group that meets on a monthly basis in conjunction with the health department. Other programs are available at Hardin Memorial Hospital as well, Vanessa Paddy, diabetes management coordinator, said. These include programs addressing insulin pumps and diabetes management, among other things. "Knowledge is power,” Paddy said. “That’s why education is so important." So what should a person know about type 2 diabetes? First, a person should know there are things that put them at a higher risk for being diabetic. These include being older than 40, having a sedentary lifestyle and having a family history of diabetes, Paddy said. People can be classified as pre-diabetic, which means their blood sugar levels are not high enough to be considered diabetic but are higher than the normal rate for someone without diabetes. In some cases, pre-diabetes can be reversed, Paddy said. In other instances, pre-diabetes will progress to diabetes. Another important point about diabetes is that typically it can be controlled with medicine, diet and exercise. And being diabetic doesn’t mean a person has to completely stop eating certain foods; it means he or she needs to learn to read labels and decide if that food will fit into the assigned meal plan, how much of it can be consumed and how often. “So serving size is extremely important,” Paddy said. Battling diabetes means patients taking an active role in controlling the disease. “Taking care of diabetes is all in the hands of the patient,” Paddy said. Some possible symptoms of diabetes are excessive fatigue; blurred vision; excessive thirst; excessive hunger; excessive urination; dry, itchy skin; and unexplained weight loss, according to Paddy and Greenwell. Anyone noticing these possible signs should follow up with a visit to a health care provider, Paddy said. Finding out if you have diabetes once you suspect you might is important. “Diabetes, unfortunately, has some significant complications,” Paddy said. The American Diabetes Association cites diabetes as the leading cause of kidney disease, blindness and amputation. Almost 25 percent of people who have the disease don’t know it, according to the ADA. The repercussions also extend beyond the physical. According to www.diabetes.org, the American Diabetes Association Web site, the total annual economic cost of diabetes in 2007 was estimated to be $174 billion. This figure included medical expenditures for diabetes care, chronic diabetes-related complications, excess general medical costs and indirect costs resulting from increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, disease-related unemployment disability and loss of productive capacity due to early mortality. In 2007, according to CDC, 23.6 million Americans had diabetes, with nearly one-third undiagnosed. Another 57 million have pre-diabetes and are likely to have the disease if they do not alter their living habits. Diabetes makes such an impact medically, emotionally and economically, people with the disease should really seek out the resources they need to stay informed and active in controlling it, Greenwell said. “That’s the most important part: taking control so it doesn’t control you." Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743.